Surveys help monitor health of waters statewide
PRATT -- Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) stream survey crews will survey streams and rivers throughout Kansas this summer, adding information to a database that helps assess and monitor the overall conditions of these waterways.

Two five-man crews, led by stream biologists Ryan Waters and Ron Kegerries, will sample as many as 90 sites from late May through mid-August, collecting information pertaining to basic water chemistry, stream flow, and evaluation of physical habitat. Fish, freshwater mussels, and other aquatic invertebrates are the primary focus of these sampling sites. Each site can range from 150 to 300 meters long.

Mark Van Scoyoc, KDWP coordinator for the program, says that the primary purpose of these surveys is to gather scientific data for long-term comparative purposes and expand the already significant catalog of aquatic species generated from past surveys when the program was revived in 1994.

The information from these surveys also helps ecologists in the Environmental Services Section (ESS) review projects that could impact sensitive areas of habitat within the state. Permits are required for publicly-funded development projects if any development activities would impact sensitive species and their habitat.

On rare occasion when a permit is required, mitigation or other preventive measures to reduce or minimize impacts to these species of concern, and/or their associated habitat, may be necessary. The information generated from stream surveys aids ESS ecologists in reviewing as many as 2,000 permits annually. Of these, fewer than 30 may require any action permit.

Kansas stream surveys, begun in the 1970s by KDWP and revived again in 1994, have provided a wealth of information about the status of fish and aquatic invertebrates. Van Scoyoc says that various programs within Kansas have helped to restore and maintain some of the critical riparian habitat directly associated with these aquatic systems.

“Rapid urban development is most likely one of the biggest threats facing our streams,” he says. “Roads, bridges, and other impervious structures associated with this rapid development make protection or recovery of important areas very difficult.”

Since most Kansas streams are only accessible by crossing private property, landowners are first contacted to obtain permission to conduct surveys on their land.

“Without the generous cooperation of landowners, it would be impossible to perform these sampling activities,” Van Scoyoc says. “Each site takes about a day to survey and we always take great care to minimize the impact we have on the area. Larger fish are released unharmed, and only small samples of common species are taken for vouchering purposes. By allowing these surveys to take place, landowners are helping us to conserve and potentially enhance Kansas’ natural heritage for future generations.”

For more information on KDWP’s stream survey activities, phone Van Scoyoc at 620-672-5911.